UNIT 7: The Romantic Period

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What is nationalism? How did this impact the music of the Romantic period?
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Nationalism is a strong identification with a particular political group, often an ethnic group. Nationalism is often accompanied by a strong sense of pride and connection with one’s particular group. This nationalism often found its way into the music of the period. Composers increasingly used elements in the music that were related to their national heritages. For example, many of the operas written during this period relate the histories of particular ethnic groups or nations. Some composers adopted melodies and other musical elements that were common in the folk music of a country. In addition, some works were adopted by individuals as a symbol of their nation, not unlike the identification with a national anthem that we see today.
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What is chromaticism?
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Chromaticism is the use of notes outside the scale that the music is using. For example, let’s say that a piece was written using the C major scale. Any note in the music that is outside of this C major scale (such as an F sharp) would be an example of chromaticism.
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What are the three types of Romantic composers? Describe each type.
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Conservative Romantic composers were those who retained the classical forms and guidelines. Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Brahms are examples of conservative Romantic composers. Full Romantic composers were those who were more innovative and creative in the form and style of their works. Examples of full Romantic composers include Liszt, Mahler, and Chopin. Nationalist Romantic composers were those who used the ethnic and national folk traditions in their work. An example of a nationalist Romantic composer is the Russian composer Tchaikovsky.
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What is a ballet? How did Romantic composers change this music form?
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A ballet is a piece in which dancers tell a story through their movements and the music. Although ballet existed before the Romantic period, the music for ballets was often composed of pieces written for other purposes and cobbled together. Staff composers might add a few original sections in between the existing music, but largely ballet made do with music already composed. The Romantic period would change this. Beethoven was one of the first composers to write music specifically for the ballet. His ballet Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus (The Creatures of Prometheus) was one of the first written for that purpose. Other composers would follow suit. Ballet companies began commissioning pieces that they could perform and composers began writing especially for the ballet. In keeping with the Romantic period, many of the ballets composed were light, airy, and free from some of the past constraints and guidelines.
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What is a symphonic poem? How is it related to programme music?
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A symphonic poem is a single, continuous movement that reflects a poem, story, or painting. The symphonic poem falls into the broader category of programme music, which is instrumental music that tells the story or gives the impressions of poems, literary works, and so on. Other composers added soaring melodies and chromatic harmony to the classical symphonic form.
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How does the music of the Romantic period differ from the music of the Classical period? How is the music similar?
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The music of the Romantic period, then, draws on themes popular centuries before, not unlike how the Classical period drew on themes from the ancient civilizations that society was interested in during the period. The Romantic period in the arts was a period that focused on emotion over reason. Literature, art, and music celebrated both the beauty in nature and human feelings. Emotion and what a person could see, feel, hear, taste, and touch were viewed as important aspects of life. While reason and intelligence were important, they were not given the same status as they had during the Classical period. Instead, they were aspects of humanity, but not better or superior to what individuals felt or experienced with their own bodies.
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What are the characteristics of Romantic music?
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The music of the Romantic period is all about emotion. Not surprisingly, given the name of this era, the music of the Romantic period often dealt with the theme of love. However, love was not the only theme, nor was love always about we think of as romantic love. Whatever the emotion, Romantic composers sought to describe feelings and the deeper truths of life. In doing so, the emotional expression of the work was elevated and celebrated. The emphasis on feeling often led to fuller, richer melodies and harmonies, resulting in sounds that reflected greater emotion. The soft tones were often softer than they had been composed and played in the past and the loud tones were even louder. In addition, the tempos ranged from very slow to very fast in the music. Again, the extreme tempos help to convey the emotion that the composer is trying to describe or illustrate. During the Romantic period, composers were now free to compose works that were longer, contained more movements, and used more instruments and voices. Not surprisingly then, the music of the Romanic period is often \”bigger\” than the music from previous periods. Beyond more emotion and greater freedoms and innovations, the music of the Romantic period is very diverse. This is due in part to the influence of nationalism on the music. Composers were incorporating folk tunes and other musical influences from a variety of cultures. The forms of music composed were also very diverse. They ranged from short, simple melodies to long, complex symphonies. Advances in the valves of many instruments allowed brass sections to lend greater weight and power to the orchestra.
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What were some of the social and cultural influences on the music of the Romantic period?
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The nineteenth century in Europe and North America was a time of great change. The Industrial Revolution was having a huge impact on the structure of society and the ways that individuals interacted with each other. The nineteenth century is full of new scientific developments, including the practical use of electricity, the telegraph, the use of anesthesia in surgery, and the passenger train. Scientific advances also impacted music. For example, during the nineteenth century, improvements were made to the valves used in some of the woodwinds and brass instruments. Changes to some instruments made them more reliable and, in some cases, easier to play. For musicians, the changes meant they could produce fuller sounds from many of the instruments.
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What is the story of Scheherazade about? Where does the story take place?
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Based on the Persian collection of stories, One Thousand and One Nights, Rimsky-Korsakov used the orchestra to tell a handful of the tales. While there are several collections of One Thousand and One Nights, they’re all framed from the perspective of one storyteller: a woman named \”Scheherazade\” and the Sultan to whom she is wed. This Sultan would marry a new virgin every day, and then send yesterday’s wife to be beheaded. He did this out of anger after discovering his first wife had been unfaithful. Scheherazade wanted to change that by telling stories to the Sultan who was mesmerized by them. At the end of 1,001 nights, and 1,000 stories, Scheherazade told the king that she had no more tales to tell him. By this time the king had fallen in love with Scheherazade, and had three sons with her. So, having been made a wiser and kinder man by Scheherazade and her tales, he spared her life, and made her his queen. The story takes place the ancient land of Persia
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The activity and podcast point out some of the changes in the music of the piece and how the music reflects the voices of the characters and what is happening in the story. How does the composer achieve different \”voices\” in this piece of music?
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Tubas and trombones talk for the sultan in this story Scheherazade voice is expressed by the solo violin, weaving her tales that mesmerize the sultan
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How is the character Scheherazade reflected in the music?
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a gorgeous refrain consistently heard in the high register of a solo violin, often with harp accompaniment, which Rimsky identified with Scheherazade narrating each of her fanciful tales to conquer the Sultan with her sweet guile.
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The activity discusses how Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, the composer, wanted to create music that told stories. Do you think he was successful in Scheherazade? Why or why not?
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What are your impressions of Scheherazade? Did you like or dislike the music? Why?
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What is the inspiration for this piece of Mendelssohn’s music?
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The Hebrides islands (of which Staffa does not happen to be an official part) and from Mendelssohn’s vivid romanticizing of the experience.
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What did Mendelssohn hope to do in this overture?
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He hoped to conjure up the sounds and sights of Scotland in a single piece of music.
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Do you think that Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave Overture succeeds in meeting Mendelssohn’s vision of the piece? Does it represent the theme of the caves that inspired Mendelssohn? Why or why not? Include at least two paragraphs answering these questions.
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What emotions or feelings does the piece create? How does Mendelssohn do this?
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This lyrical theme, suggestive of the power and stunning beauty of the cave, is intended to develop feelings of loneliness and solitude. The second theme, meanwhile, depicts movement at sea and \”rolling waves\”
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Who is most known today for his lullaby?
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Brahms
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Did Johann Strauss I push his son to become a composer and musician?
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Yes
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Was Beethoven was one of the first composers to write music specifically for the ballet?
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Yes
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Did Brahms often use conventional and traditional forms and techniques in his work?
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Yes
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Did Chopin write the famous ballets The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty.
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No
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Did the Romantic period of music emphasize reason and form over emotion and feeling?
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No
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Who was known as the \”Waltz King\”?
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Strauss
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Did Tchaikovsky wrote 1812 Overture?
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Yes
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During the Romantic period, did composers often include elements from the folk music of their culture?
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Yes
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Who composed the \”Wedding March\”?
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Mendelssohn
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Early Romantic music was influenced by which composer?
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Beethoven
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Who is known as one of the best composers for the piano of all time?
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Chopin
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Were instruments were less reliable in the Romantic period than they had been during the Renaissance period?
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No
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Is chromaticism is the use of notes outside the scale that the music is using.
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Yes
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Was Mendelssohn known as the \”Waltz King?\”
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No

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